Clarence Clemons' Top 7 E Street Sax Solos

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As most of our readers know by now, E Street has lost its most prominent resident and Block Captain with the death of Clarence Clemons. In poor physical health for years due to various ailments, he died on Saturday night from complications due to a stroke less than a week earlier. The Big Man was 69.

So we here at Rocks Off scrambled to our iPod, CDs and even cassettes for an intense Father's Day trying to determine his greatest solos. Alas, there are ground rules:

  • We're limiting this list to Clemons' work with Springsteen, no offense to Jackson Browne, Aretha Franklin, or Lady Gaga.
  • And then just Springsteen studio records; no Tracks, The Promise, Live in New York City. Though "Paradise by the 'C'" from Live 1975-1985 gets an honorable mention.
  • They have to be true solos, not just repeated melodies or - as in "Meeting Across the River" - mostly adding atmosphere, no matter how crucial.
  • The list is weighed toward the time period of his greatest work. After Bruce put the band back together in the late '90s, the music tended to feature less sax. In his autobiography Big Man, Clemons even bragged about laying down all his parts for Working on a Dream in a single day.

As if that were something to be proud of. So let's get to it!


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7. "Kitty's Back," The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle

It doesn't show up until late in the tune, itself a swirling, wildly-building track with jazzy organ/guitar licks and a great percussive beat. But when Clarence starts to blow, he delivers a soulful, swinging solo that pulls the number back to earth before the sustained note brings this carousel to a crashing conclusion.


6. "Rosalita," The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle

Clean and crisp, Clemons here grabs the listener by the throat and the groin - embodying all the youthful swagger of the aspiring rocker the song is about. With the sax sound building and building and nearly carrying the tune, there's a reason this number was always a live show highlight. And it has more to do with the Big Man than the Boss.

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4 comments
F'house Cola
F'house Cola

Clarence Clemons' work on the Gaga Jersey tributes is solid...the man dearly departed with full game, and soon, at the top of the charts.

Katy
Katy

I've never been a Springsteen fan - and my favorite Springsteen albums doesn't even have Clarence Clemons on it - but the guy and the sound of his sax solos are so iconic that I feel a loss today.

That his acting work on "Nash Bridges" was fantastic goes without saying...

RIP...

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